Town and school budgets total 2.5% increase

Yep, 2.5%.

The combined town and school budget requests now being put forward total close to $142.5 million, an increase of 2.5% — or nearly $3.5 million over the current year’s $139 million in allocated spending. The combined proposal stays just within the proposed 2.5% “cap” on municipal spending increases handed down by the state legislature — over widespread protests from officials in town and cities.

“A cap, which — to be very honest with you — we probably would have been under, anyway, as part of our normal budgeting,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “But we had to take that into consideration.”

“It’s a very difficult year.”

Rounding to the nearest $1,000, the combined town and school budget headed for review by the finance board is $142,492,000, which is $3,479,000 over the current year’s $139,013,000.

That $142.5 million, 2.5% increase proposal includes close to $93,518,000 for the school operations — the full 3.48% increase sought by the Board of Education.

For their “non-binding recommendation” on the school budget, the selectmen propose that the finance board cut the school budget from 3.48% to a 2.5% increase. If the finance board followed that recommendation, all the combined town and school spending would be a 1.87% increase over the current year’s budgeted spending — down from the 2.5%.

That would mean reducing the school budget from the board’s requested $93,518,000 to about $92,634,000 — a reduction of about $884,000.

But the Board of Finance will start its work based not on the selectmen’s 2.5% recommendation for the school budget but on the requested 3.48% increase that came directly from the Board of Education.

The $37,452,000 budget for town departments and roadwork that the selectmen are passing on to the Board of Finance represents a 2.39% increase.  

“Town departments and roads, insurance and benefits, road paving, ADA, the subtotal for that, just the town including all those items, is a 2.39% increase,” Marconi said.

That $37,452,000, 2.39% request includes $35,612,295, a 2.62% increase, for the town departments — police, fire, parks and recreation, public works and highways, support for the library, town hall administrative departments. Also within the 2.39% town increase is $1,840,000 for road repaving and repairs, and ADA infrastructure work — that’s a $35,000 reduction from this year’s $1,875,000, a 1.87% decrease, that brought the package of spending by town departments down from 2.62% to 2.39%.

“I had a staff meeting and asked every department head to go back, look through their budget, and come up with a recommendation of cuts,” Marconi said.

The selectmen’s cut to town departments’ spending is expected to include staff reductions of one full-time and two part-time positions — a decision the board made while looking over a variety of scenarios cutting different numbers of positions to arrive at various budget numbers.

The size of the overall budget increase was also held down by a projected decline from $12,060,000 to $11,523,000 — which is a 4.46% decrease — in debt service payments, which show as a separate line in the town budget.

Some of that $12 million-a-year debt service is interest, but Marconi said about $9 million a year goes to reduce principal on the $78-million outstanding town debt.

All the selectmen’s budget work, and also the school board’s more than $93,518,000 proposed budget — the 3.48% increase request — will be passed on for review, possible adjustment, and approval by the Board of Finance.

The finance board will then send its recommended town and school budget — and a proposed tax rate — to voters in early May.

The finance board will begin its budget work with a public hearing Monday, March 27.